The United Nations has included higher education as relevant to its new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this Items essay, Joan Dassin considers the role that scholarships for underrepresented citizens of developing countries can play in deepening the ways in which universities contribute to the public good. Drawing on the example of the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowships Program (IFP), Dassin argues for both rigorous modes of evaluating the impact of scholarship programs and for an expansive notion of impact that extends beyond technical training and narrow economic goals and addresses inequalities within and across countries.
Historian of science James Andrews reflects on key moments in the twentieth century in which authoritarian regimes and, at times, democratic ones, have significantly interfered in the enterprise of scientific research. Taking examples from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, Andrews examines how distortions to the process of peer review and other interventions constitute “warning signs” that portend limits to the autonomy and progress of science that may have resonance today.
Danny Hoffman’s new essay explores the expansive role of militaries as “armed first responders,” which has become “the new normal of humanitarian intervention.” Based on his research on both the US and Liberian armies as they intervened in the 2014 Ebola crisis, Hoffman shows the connections between the actions of the two forces. In particular, he examines how the focus on training Liberian forces to counter violent extremism by the Americans shaped how the Liberian military, with tragic consequences, approached its role in containing the Ebola epidemic. This essay is cross-posted on Kujenga Amani, the digital forum of the African Peacebuilding Network of the Social Science Research Council.
Allan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, calls attention to a central tension in contemporary higher education. On the one hand, universities around the world seek more and more international students and greater international collaboration for a range of academic and pragmatic reasons. On the other, Goodman notes the recent rise of a kind of “educational nationalism,” in the United States and around the world, that places limits on the flows of people and ideas, and on the forging of partnerships. He calls for a constructive form of nationalism that competes to “globalize curricula, professors, and the student body.”
Motivated by concerns over the problems and tensions of the present, Herbert Gans makes the case for the study of the future—that is, how individuals and institutions imagine and construct future lives and worlds. Understanding future constructions, and their differences across the boundaries of class, gender, race, generation, religion, and other social markers, provides a window into conflicts of the present and new possibilities for engaging them.